As we head into the holiday weekend, there is more gloom on the horizon with Covid. As the Pfizer vaccine is distributed around the world and the Moderna vaccine getting ready to do the same, now …
As we head into the holiday weekend, there is more gloom on the horizon with Covid. As the Pfizer vaccine is distributed around the world and the Moderna vaccine getting ready to do the same, now there is word from the United Kingdom that a new strain of the Covid virus has been discovered.
As a result, last Saturday night at midnight the U.K. shut down its borders to human traffic. Ferries that ran between Ireland and the U.K. can only haul food and cargo at this time and most airlines have cut almost all service to the U.K.
It is not known yet if the vaccines that are being distributed now will give any protection against the new strain. It is a curious coincidence that California has been having a major problem with covid once again with hospitals filled to the brink.
Just like the flu vaccines that were based on the past years' flu would give you some protection against the current flu strain, hopefully the current covid vaccine will help slow the spread of this new strain. Over this holiday weekend, don't let your guard down, stay vigilant, wash your hands, wear a mask when out in crowds or avoid crowds all together. Hopefully after the holidays we don't go through another shut down.
Changing subjects now to the snow we got last week. The snow is a great insulator for your shrubs, flower bulbs and perennials, but look out for the deer. Now that the snow has coated the fields around the area, the deer will be more likely to come looking around the house to see what you might have to eat. If there is a birdfeeder with sunflower seeds in it or maybe some whole corn put out for them, they will be there.
But if these items are not around, the deer will start looking for a substitute like your delicious shrubs. So be aware that you may need to wrap some of your shrubs. If we continue to get more snow over the winter this will push the deer in closer to us looking for food. Your perennials and bulbs are safe under the snow from the deer, but the moles, voles and shrews, may look to eat them over the winter.
Moles are small mammals adapted to a subterranean lifestyle. They have cylindrical bodies, velvety fur, very small, inconspicuous ears and eyes, reduced hindlimbs and short, powerful forelimbs with large paws adapted for digging. We know moles eat those pesky japanese beetle grubs, but they have also been known to nibble on roots during the extreme cold of winter when the grubs are not active.
A vole is a small rodent resembling a mouse but with a stouter body, a shorter, hairy tail, a slightly rounder head, smaller ears and eyes. Voles are commonly mistaken for other small animals like moles, gophers, mice, rats and even shrews because they have similar characteristics and behavioral tendencies.
Voles will often eat succulent root systems and will burrow under plants or ground cover and eat away until the plant is dead. Bulbs in the ground are another favorite target for voles; their excellent burrowing and tunneling skills give them access to sensitive areas without warning. The presence of a large numbers of voles is often only identifiable after they have destroyed a number of plants.
Voles will readily girdle small trees and ground cover much like a porcupine. Shrews are comparatively small, most no larger than a mouse. In general, shrews are terrestrial creatures that forage for seeds, insects, nuts, worms, and a variety of other foods in leaf litter and dense vegetation.
They have small eyes and generally poor vision, but have excellent senses of hearing and smell. They are very active animals, with voracious appetites. Shrews have unusually high metabolic rates, above that expected in comparable small mammals.
Shrews can eat 1/2 to 2 times their own body weight in food daily and in the winter months when seeds, insects, nuts and worms are in short supply they will supplement their diet with tender bark and flower bulbs.
So when inspecting your plants this spring for damage, look a little lower than usual as these small creatures can do a lot of damage in a small amount of time. And with the long winter with plenty of snow cover they have a lot of time to do a lot of damage.